Review: "Thor"

 By: Heather Seebach

Spider-Man. Captain America. The Hulk. Everyone knows these names. They are legends of the Marvel universe. A couple of years ago, most people could not tell you who the hell Iron Man is. Now, he is plastered on children’s bed sheets and has a slew of toys in his likeness. Like Iron Man, Thor has been relatively unknown among non-comic book fans - until now. Kenneth Branagh’s blockbuster Thor is rapidly making this Marvel hero a household name among mainstream audiences. Even some comic book fans like me knew the God of Thunder but found him to be incredibly dull. This movie, despite its flaws, is definitely helping to raise his coolness factor, and heightening my excitement for Joss Whedon’s forthcoming Avengers film.

While most Marvel films to date have been mostly grounded in reality, Thor involves mythology and magic. In the distant realm of Asgard, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is about to become king. Before his crowning is complete, a race known as the Frost Giants attempts to steal a relic from the royal palace. Considering this an act of aggression, Thor disobeys the wishes of his father Odin (Anthony Hopkins) and starts a war with the Frost Giants. Frustrated with his son’s insolence, Odin then bans Thor to Earth, where he meets an astrophysicist (Natalie Portman) and her crew. Meanwhile, back on Asgard, Odin slips into a coma-like sleep and Thor’s nefarious brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) ascends the throne.

Thor is a fun superhero movie full of excitement and humor. However, not all of the writing is sound, and the CGI is occasionally subpar. While the characters are generally likable, some of their motivations are muddled, especially Loki. It is one thing to mislead the audience about a villain’s intentions so as to surprise them, but Loki feels like he has multiple motivations at once and they are not very consistent as the film goes on. Still, Loki is one of my favorite parts of the film, thanks in no small part to Tom Hiddleston, who makes him delightfully over-the-top. As for the CGI, it’s not all bad. The Destroyer looks fantastic, but some of the other-wordly shots look weak (i.e., the Bifrost; Jotunheim).

All the Norse mythology in the film, however, seems to be spot-on. Likewise, the film is loyal to the Marvel comics. The Warriors Three are badass (especially the great Tadanobu Asano, who is so above this film it is not even funny). The Earth characters are likable and provide most of the humor. Portman is essentially there to smile and blush at Thor, and she does a good job at it. In the titular role, Hemsworth is great. I knew this guy was something special after his brief but memorable role in 2009’s Star Trek. Hopefully he will not be stuck in blockbuster movie hell after this role because he has the potential to be a great actor.

It is also nice to see Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) play a good-sized part in this film. He ties the Marvel Avengers films together and reminds the audience that this is just the beginning for Thor. Whereas Iron Man 2 shoved the Avengers references in our faces, Thor is more subtle about it. There are quite a few inside-jokes for Marvel fans, and even a special appearance by Hawkeye. I do not consider myself a huge comic book fan but I still found myself squeeing at each little reference. Be sure to stay until after the credits!

Thor is not a perfect superhero movie. In many ways, it could have been improved. For fans of Marvel comics, or anyone looking forward to The Avengers, Thor is a necessary but fun stepping stone to that film. This is the most interesting Thor has been since Adventures in Babysitting, and I suspect he is only going to get more badass when he is fighting alongside Iron Man, Hawkeye, Captain America, and the rest.

 out of 5

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